“i can never be who i was. i can simply watch her with sympathy, understanding & some measure of awe. there she goes, she is ambling along, she is looking for it”
And just like that, my life has flipped another page in its book. The 23rd chapter in a tumultuous, yet joyful life I’m happy to call my own. I spent weeks thinking about what to write on yet another life year passed. I thought about writing something specific, words thematic to turning 23 but the task, like my birthday itself, felt overwhelming. Too much pressure to share something insightful. I usually absolutely love celebrating my birthday (hello balloons, birthday tiara & too much birthday cakes), so I felt conflicted that the joy this year seemed rather low on the birthday-excitedness-scale. But here I am today, the first page of 23 and like usual, I am wondering in the same way I always do.
I am an endless optimist for I choose to see the beauty of everything in life and yet, for as long as I can remember, I’ve felt an utter sadness on my birthday, joined by the odd tear or two. Vaguely, it feels like an ending, and ultimately, endings always make me feel sad. Like there’s a lingering melancholy in the air that creeps up on me as soon as the ticker adds another number to my life, a sudden nostalgia for the past year hitting me like a bulldozer.
I’ve had many experiences this year — both good and bad — that have affirmed my great big love for life, and yet it’s an appreciation tainted with the longing to make the moment last and never end. I romanticize the past and I weave this into the present. Sometimes I’ll even simply think of tomorrow or when it’s time later tonight for us to all go home and I’ll wish we could all just stay in this one great experience a little longer. On top of the world in Barcelona with strangers, the night air & wine; on top of
bliss at 3am, an open bedroom window & the Summer air, in the arms of a beautiful stranger; on top of joy on late nights with friends like family, dancing until the first light; on top of peace on long walks with myself; on top of fulfillment when creating tiny pieces of visual and written art.
I heard something a few years ago that might explain a tiny part of this strange contradiction, of feeling somber on a day of festive bliss. I think of it quite often still, and it is something that has stuck with me quite vividly. I’ll never forget what my then boyfriend told me on one of our trips to Portugal: the beauty of the word ‘saudade’, which only exists in Portuguese. “Saudade is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.” If ever words could be art, then this would be a masterpiece. If ever moments could be art, then on this day, they feel like masterpieces.
The same reason I collect polaroid pictures on my wall like trophies; memories that make me feel like I’m winning at life, reversed saudade if you will. I cling to these whenever I forget that life is not just one big, overwhelming mess; it’s one big, beautiful mess. The captured spontaneous happiness takes me back to beaches, festivals, Paris, events where my worries were far from home and where I felt limitless. Channeling memories through these photographs helps reassure my mind that beauty lies ahead, it makes me excited to go into the world again and
capture more printed bliss. The funny side note here is that, yes, my wall also contains memories of past birthdays; ain’t my life full of contradictions.
In terms of channeling, and in light of this still being a birthday post — in case you forgot — I picked out a dress that, following all of this, seems quite symbolic now; feeling ‘blue’ has never rung more true. The Carrie Bradshaw vibes are definitely here — can you tell? — but the blue has also some sort of ‘saudade’ vibe to it, unknown to me back when I chose the dress that would symbolize the year I left behind and the year I will now enter. Perhaps that is the small part of this year that I will carry (carrie?) —and wear— with me; the part where I take my saudade moments and hold them close, to revisit and re-live when I was happiest, captivated by what feels like one long starry night, to dream of moments long gone yet so close to my heart; but also the part that makes me feel gloomy, not only for breathtaking moments ended, but also for other moments I wish had ended sooner. The dress is a piece of voguish Carrie, a piece of wistful nostalgia, a piece of boundless heartache, a piece of limitless longing, of limitless liveliness. But most of all, it was all of me. The good & the bad. And I will continue capturing every bit of of it: stills of life. Pocket-sized pictures, life-sized happiness.
“I can never be who I was, I can simply watch her with sympathy, understanding & some measure of awe.”
And just like that … I have written something thematic around 23. Birthday insightfulness. The good & the bad.
Here’s to another chapter of not knowing what to write, and ending up with an overflow of written nonsense. Happy Birthday to me.